The FIA are moving to hurriedly implement regulations already agreed to improve pit lane safety. The rules were due to be implemented in 2014, however the sport’s governing body will ask the World Motor Sport Council’s approval to implement these at the next race.
Following a pit lane incident at last weekend’s German Grand Prix, the FIA has decided to take steps to increase F1 safety and is to institute an immediate ban on anyone other than event marshals and team personnel being present in pit lane during races and grand prix qualifying sessions. Access for approved media will be confined to the pit wall.
Last weekend’s incident at the Nürburgring occurred when, following a pit stop, a wheel became detached from the Red Bull Racing car of Mark Webber as he made his way towards the pit lane exit. The loose wheel struck a television cameraman who was hospitalised as a result. He is expected to make a full recovery.
In order to reduce the risk of similar accidents in the future, the FIA, on the initiative of its President, Jean Todt, will be seeking to make changes to the Formula One Sporting Regulations. In order to effect this, the FIA today informed teams that the approval of the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) will immediately be sought for two changes to the Sporting Regulations. Both of these changes have already been approved for 2014. However, for safety reasons, the WMSC will be asked to approve their immediate implementation. The changes are:
1) Article 23.11*, which will now require all team personnel working on a car during a pit stop to wear head protection.
2) Article 30.12**, which will provide for a reduction of the pit lane speed limit during races from 100km/h to 80km/h (with the exception of Melbourne, Monaco and Singapore, where due to track configuration the limit remains at 60km/h).
Finally, in relation to the incident at the German Grand Prix, the FIA is expecting a written report from Red Bull Racing tomorrow. This will also be shared with the other teams in order to help improve pit lane safety.
* 23.11 Team personnel are only allowed in the pit lane immediately before they are required to work on a car and must withdraw as soon as the work is complete. All team personnel carrying out any work on a car during a race pit stop must be wearing head protection.
** 30.12 A speed limit of 80km/h will be imposed in the pit lane during the whole Event. However, this limit may be amended by the stewards following a recommendation from the FIA F1 safety delegate. Any team whose driver exceeds the limit during any practice session will be fined €100 for each km/h above the limit, up to a maximum of €1000. However, in accordance with Article 18.1 the stewards may inflict an additional penalty if they suspect a driver was speeding in order to gain any sort of advantage. During the race the stewards may impose either of the penalties under Article 16.3a) or b) on any driver who exceeds the limit.
Melbourne, Monaco and Singapore already have lower pit lane speed limits and are unaffeted. Further, a report from Red Bull into what occurred is expected in Paris tomorrow.
TJ13 notes the credit is rather crudely and overtly given to Le Presidente, “on the initiative of its President, Jean Todt”. Similar rhetoric was in evidence in the FIA statement following Silverstone.
Is it strange that a man who has been silent through the collapse of RRA, the failure to agree a Concorde agreement, no comment for months over tyre matters – including who will be the supplier in 2014 – is suddenly being thrust to the fore in the surprising 2 dictats issued by the FIA?
The absurdity of this intervention is that at worst it is irrelevant and at best fiddling whilst Rome burns. Helmet’s and re-positioning the photographers does not solve the problem. We have seen errant tyres on the loose bounce 50-60 feet in the air and bounce unpredictability wherever the tyre wills.
So the logical result of this announcement is that we should see pit wall personnel like Horner, Newey and Brawn wearing helmets, or should we remove them to the safety of trucks in the paddock?
Further, the speed of the car in the pit lane is irrelevant to the torque and wheel spin pulled by an F1 car launching out of its box. Whatever the pit lane speed limit, a loose wheel can be launched at well above this speed if not secured properly.
Further, the reduction in the pit lane speed does not proportionately reduce the risk of a serious or fatal accident. Everyone working in that area is not now 20% safer. Road safety campaigns have demonstrated that the reduction from 30-20pmh (50-33kph) delivered huge improvements in the fatality ratio, not seen in a similar reduction from 45-30mph.
This just smacks of a knee jerk reaction when what in fact is required are calm minds and a touch of analysis together with a basic understanding of the issues. Only then will there be a sensible outcome.
The problem is in fact cars being released without wheels being properly secured. The teams have added levels of technology into the process which now decides when a car is ready to be released. Red Bull’s system relies on sensors all being activated for the lollypop man to allow the release.
Clearly it failed. Rampaging wheels on the loose have been an infrequent but regular sight in F1 over the years, so is it merely the case that whatever is done, this event will occasionally occur?
A number of experienced voices are calling for a reduced number of bodies servicing the car because this will allow the lollypop man the opportunity to judge better in what is now a very crowded space, and whether all is well and ready to go. Inherent in this idea is to return of the decision making of when a car is safe for release to the man at the front who can see when this is the case.
The assumption that because there are fewer people involved, mistakes are less likely is a moot point. The pressure to deliver the fastest stop time remains whatever the number of personnel are working on the car and hence the extra time will not necessarily be qualitative in ensuring the task is properly and safely completed.
Teams do tinker with the equipment they use to change a wheel and at times the new kit will be unfamiliar to the crew and be liable to misuse. Standardising the wheel rims, nuts and wheel guns would remove this variable, yet this does not resolve the pressure to deliver fast changeovers as mentioned above.
The only solution which would make any sense, is to make the pit stop a mandatory minimum time, similar to a stop and go. This provides for ample time for the job to be done fully and within safety limits and maybe the drivers can have time for a quick smoke if they desire.
Even this solution does not account for a gun failure or some other eventuality which will place someone under a similar time pressure to which they face now, which in turn may result in a tyre failing to be secured properly.
Alternatively, here’s an idea. We accept motor racing is a dangerous sport and that accidents will happen.
What is clear is that jumping on the safety band wagon and the solution proffered by Jean Todt is precipitous and absurd. To anyone with half a brain, this is simply Le Presidente posturing and playing for votes.